The story on Daniil Medvedev after the Shanghai Masters is very similar to the one he authored at the U.S. Open.
Very simply, Medvedev continues to win every close set against non-Big 3 opponents in important tournaments. Yes, he beat Novak Djokovic in Cincinnati, but he did not play Djokovic or Roger Federer in either the U.S. Open or Shanghai. He met Rafael Nadal in Montreal and New York and lost both times.
The sustained quality displayed by Medvedev in Shanghai — with absolutely no letdown after his summer run — is impossible to ignore. We don’t know for sure if this is a ramp-up leading to a major-title-winning 2020 season, but if we were to imagine what such an improvement looked like, this is it.
Medvedev keeps answering challenges and questions. He keeps stopping Stefanos Tsitsipas. He keeps winning close first sets on the days when he is struggling, as shown against Vasek Pospisil early in Shanghai.
He is showing a Djokovic-like penchant for getting himself out of trouble at every turn, winning the most important points of a match often by steadying himself while his opponent flinches. Such was the case at the end of the first set in the Tsitsipas semifinal. It reminded me of a Djokovic-Federer tiebreaker.
Medvedev the Magnificent keeps affirming his place among the world’s very best. Is he a better player than Dominic Thiem? Not on clay, but certainly on hardcourts. He owns two Masters titles, more than Thiem’s one. He has reached a major final on hardcourts.
Thiem deserves ultimate respect at Roland Garros, but Club Med sips from the nectar of more sustained achievement on non-clay surfaces. This comes in spite of Thiem improving himself as a hardcourt player in 2019. Thiem has gotten moderately better, but Medvedev’s rise has been meteoric since the start of August.
The one obvious gap in Daniil’s recent profile — I thought about saying “deficit,” but that doesn’t quite fit, since nothing about Medvedev’s tennis has been flawed over the past two and a half months — is that he hasn’t had to face two Big 3 players in the same Masters or major tournament since his ascendance.
This obviously isn’t his fault. It is not something he can control. Nevertheless, it is a reality.
The tennis world is waiting for the 2020 Australian Open on a general level, but in particular, it is waiting to see what happens when Club Med plays a Big 3 opponent in a semifinal, with another Big 3 player looming in the final.
Outside of that scenario, Medvedev has mastered nearly every other scenario at the present moment. If you are looking for signs of regression or mental fatigue, Daniil Medvedev isn’t offering anything.
His hiking boots still fit very comfortably, as he climbs in the estimation of tennis commentators everywhere.
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